3. The world’s most bizarre taxes:

    • Beard-token: 
King Henry VIII of England set up a tax on beards in 1535, perhaps as a convenient way to raise funds (the bearded king was himself exempt from the fee). His daughter, Elizabeth I, reintroduced the tax, penalizing “every beard of more than two weeks’ growth.” 

Pannage: was, in medieval England, “a tax paid for the privilege of feeding swine in the woods.” It was apparently a common practice to release domestic pigs in the forest to let them feed on ” fallen acorns, beechmast, chestnuts or other nuts.” 

    • Sheriff-tooth: 
In 13th century England, the sheriff-tooth was levied for “the service of providing entertainment for the sheriff at his county courts.”

    7 more strange taxes…

    Photo from: Hulton Archive/Getty Images 


  4. Between pensions, office space and staff, postage, travel, and other benefits, the U.S. spent nearly $3.7 million in 2012 on our four living former presidents and Ronald Reagan’s widow, Nancy Reagan, according to new analysis from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Here’s how that breaks down: 

    • $1.32 million — Allowance paid to George W. Bush in 2012
    • $85,000 — Bush’s telephone bill
    • $46,000 — Bush’s postage and printing tab
    • $395,000 — Rent for Bush’s Dallas office
    • $978,000 — Allowance paid to Bill Clinton in 2012
    • $442,000 — Rent for Clinton’s New York City office

    More numbers


  5. It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won’t, I don’t think. I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000. Make it $500,000, make it a million….. Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood and are hostile?
    — Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol and 4 other Republicans who think the GOP should stop coddling the rich

    (Source: theweek.com)


  6. One of the most contentious exchanges in this week’s closely watched presidential debate came when Mitt Romney forcefully defended his tax plan. President Obama and independent economists have warned that Romney’s promise to slash income-tax rates for everyone — including the rich — and wipe out popular deductions and loopholes so as not to increase the deficit would wind up giving the wealthiest Americans huge breaks while saddling the middle class with a higher tax burden. Romney swears his critics are simply wrong. “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans,” Romney said on Wednesday, “and… I will not, under any circumstances, raise taxes on middle-income families." So, what, exactly, would Romney’s plan mean for taxpayers? Here, a brief guide:

    What does Romney want to do?
    He plans to keep tax benefits for savings and investment, eliminate the estate and alternative minimum taxes, and slash everyone’s income tax rate by 20 percent, across the board. That includes small businesses whose owners report profits on their individual returns, instead of paying corporate income taxes. As Obama and others have pointed out, the lower rates would slash nearly $5 trillion over a decade from what taxpayers would otherwise have to cough up. Obama says that will add to the federal deficit. Romney denies that, saying he’ll make up for the lost revenue in other ways.

    How would Romney make up for this lost revenue?
    Romney wants to cut back on deductions, exemptions, and credits that many Americans use to reduce their taxable income and tax bills. Romney has taken a lot of heat for not disclosing which loopholes he’d eliminate, but he said earlier this week that he would put a $17,000 cap on annual deductions — such as mortgage interest and charitable contributions. The thing is, that won’t be enough to make up for the cost of the tax breaks, says Brookings Institution economist William Gale, who co-authored a study of Romney’s tax plan for the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. “It doesn’t come close to paying for the $5 trillion.”

    How far does the plan fall short?

    (Source: theweek.com)


  7. Mitt Romney is facing a potential campaign killer this week, after Mother Jones posted a surreptitiously filmed video of a private fundraiser in which the GOP standard-bearer belittles the 47 percent of Americans who will allegedly vote for President Obama “no matter what.” These members of the electorate, Romney claimed at the May event, pay no federal income taxes, and have grown too “dependent on government.” My job, the Republican nominee for president said, “is not to worry about those people.”

    In invoking the 47 percent figure, Romney was repeating a conservative trope that has often been hoisted as evidence of the expansion of the welfare state, and once even inspired a short-lived ”53 percent movement.” But is it true? Here, a guide to the claim that nearly half of Americans don’t pay federal income taxes:

    Is Romney’s claim true or false?
    Technically speaking, it’s true. According to a 2011 study by the Tax Policy Center, 46.4 percent of households in the U.S. paid no federal income tax in 2011. The Americans who fall into this category either make too little to be taxed, or qualify for tax credits that mitigate their income tax. This chunk of the electorate is composed largely of seniors on Social Security, students, the disabled, and the poor.

    So half of America lives tax-free?
    No. The federal tax system is progressive (meaning the wealthy are taxed more than the poor), but state tax systems are less so. The households that pay no federal income taxes still pay state and local taxes, as well as sales taxes. In addition, all Americans working full-time pay federal payroll taxes for Social Security. In other words, “it’s factually incorrect for Mitt Romney to dismiss 47 percent of Americans as members of a dependency class,” says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo.

    Did more people used to pay federal income taxes?
    Yes. The Great Recession pushed millions of workers out of the labor market, or left them making too little to be taxed. Furthermore, the Bush tax cuts “doubled the child tax credit, increased a number of other deductions and exemptions, and lowered marginal tax rates,” thereby erasing “millions of families’ federal income tax liabilities,” says Annie Lowrey at The New York Times.

    Do Republicans want low taxes for the poor?
    They used to. Indeed, this was once a consistent area of bipartisan agreement, stretching back to the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Conservatives liked the idea of tax credits for low-income families with children, as opposed to showering the poor with more federal spending. They saw tax credits as an “extremely low-cost way to recognize the fact that raising the next generation constitutes an expensive investment in human capital that will yield dividends for society as whole,”says Reiham Salam at The National Review. But there is now a strong conservative movement to reform the federal tax code so that everyone “pays their fair share.”

    Does the 47 percent really support Obama?
    No. There are plenty of Republican seniors, for example, who pay no federal income taxes. “Romney seems to have contempt not just for the Democrats who oppose him, but for tens of millions who intend to vote for him,” says William Kristol at The Weekly Standard. Still, this “maker’s and taker’s narrative seems fairly popular among wealthy Republicans,” says Megan McArdle at The Daily Beast


  8. "An anonymous post on Pastebin asking for Bitcoins? That’s basically a parody of hackers."  says Julia La Roche at Business Insider

    As if the pressure of a presidential campaign isn’t enough, Mitt Romney now faces a blackmail threat from hackers who claim to have stolen the Republican’s tax returns. They are demanding a cool $1 million, paid in Bitcoins, “an untraceable online currency popular in the criminal underworld,” says Chris Taylor at Mashable

    Is this theft even plausible? 


  9. "The wealthy’s mess"

    Christopher Weyant, © 2012 Cagle Cartoons
    More cartoons


  10. Meet Rep. Bob Dold, the Republican trying to save Planned Parenthood. The Illinois politician wants to keep taxpayer dollars trickling to the women’s health organization the GOP loves to hate. He’s introduced a bill that would prevent agencies and governments from denying it family-planning dollars just because it offers abortion services. 

    Who is this guy, and will lawmakers approve his bill? 


  11. President Obama is getting a fat check from the IRS this year — $25,000 — which is enough to single-handedly put a family of four over the poverty threshold. Historically speaking, however, it’s on the smallish side. Here’s a look by the numbers:

    $789,674 — The Obamas’ 2011 income, largely comprised of book royalties and his $400,000 presidential salary

    $162,074 — Amount the Obamas paid in federal taxes in 2011, plus $31,941 in Illinois state taxes

    $207,818 — Mitt Romney’s estimated 2011 tax refund (Mitt is expected to pay roughly $3.5 million in federal taxes on nearly $21 million in income.)

    $127,200 — The Bushes’ tax refund in 2000, the year Bush was elected 

    $124,582 — Amount Ronald Reagan owed the IRS in 1982

    More presidential taxes


  12. It’s just plain wrong that millions of middle-class Americans pay a higher share of their income in taxes than some millionaires and billionaires.

    President Obama, after Senate Republicans derailed the Buffett Rule bill, which Republicans dismissed as an election-year gimmick that would unfairly penalize investors and kill jobs in the process.

    Is the Buffett Rule fair?


  13. As Congress and the White House cast about for ways to shrink the yawning U.S. budget deficit, they could do worse than starting with a few stern words for their own staffs. According to IRS data crunched by The Washington Post, almost 100,000 employees of Congress, the West Wing, and several other federal agencies were collectively about $1 billion short in paying their 2010 taxes. That’s “totally unacceptable and disrespectful,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who’s pushing a bill to make tax delinquency a firable offense for federal workers. “If you’re on the federal payroll, the very least you can do is pay your taxes.” Here, a by-the-numbers look at the federal bureaucracy’s tax problem:

    • $114.2 billion
      Unpaid 2010 taxes, interest, and penalties for all Americans
    • $1.03 billion
      Amount that 98,291 federal, postal, and congressional employees owe in unpaid 2010 taxes
    • $32 million
      Increase from 2009 to 2010 in delinquent federal employee taxes owed
    • 0.96
      Tax delinquency rate, in percent, at the Treasury Department, which houses the IRS. That’s the lowest rate of any agency studied.
    • $9.3 million
      Unpaid 2010 taxes for 1,181 delinquent Treasury employees

    More numbers here